Research Questions Usefulness of Public Defibrillators

Outside of a few locales, other methods of saving lives may be more cost-effective

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FRIDAY, May 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A Canadian study that questions the growing public access to automated external heart defibrillators found that the devices are only cost-effective in three types of locations -- casinos, non-acute hospitals and nursing homes.

"Less than 15 percent of cardiac arrests occur in public venues. PAD (public access defibrillation) programs that target public venues are unlikely to lead to significant overall survival benefit," concluded researcher Dr. Valerie J. De Maio.

Researchers analyzed nearly 7,700 cardiac arrest incidents from 1995 to 2000 and compared costs and life expectancy of treating patients with and without on-site defibrillator by location. They used a threshold of $50,000 per year of life gained and found that only casinos ($542), non-acute hospitals ($30,750), and nursing homes ($45,926) met the cost-effectiveness criteria.

Costs at other locations included: shopping malls -- $67,690; hotels - $143,530; restaurants and bars -- $347,954; medical offices -- $955,614; and stadiums and fairgrounds -- $1,910,193.

The findings were expected to be presented Friday at the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, in San Francisco.

According to De Maio, instead of placing defibrillators at large public centers, "there is a much greater opportunity to improve survivability by focusing on the delivery of good-quality basic CPR and programs designed to increase awareness among the community."

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about automated external defibrillators.

SOURCE: Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, news release, May 18, 2006

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